Since receiving my first ZX Spectrum aged 6 I have been building and creating
things with computers. Over the last 15 years I have built commercial software
for desktop, mobile and full stack web applications - for a 500 year old company
with 2k employees through to a startup with just 3. I've made 2D adventure games,
cutting edge AI code writers, a desktop productivity tool, and a homework portal
with 5 million users - to name just a few. I am forever learning and love the
challenge of new projects, always trying to produce
I joined VentureHarbour after meeting the CEO and learning about their mission to spawn new startups every year. It felt like a place where I could make real impact and after joining as
Technical Lead I did! Within the first few months I had worked through a lot of the existing ‘ventures’, securing, optimising and just systemitising everything so they could all operate smoother - it was quite ramshackled prior. At the same time I was making small tactical changes to the work that had already been done to their current venture ‘Serene’ to make the application real-time across web and desktop. At that stage it was desktop focussed but it seemed neccesary to take the core online so we could work on team-based features - the sorts of things that make revenue. I transitioned to CTO at the start of 2022, managing the development team of 4 - as well as contractors and other support staff - and have so far ran the delivery of 4 independant ventures. From referral sites with SEO optimisations, Slack based applications for managing team performance, to a full SaaS marketing activity planner it’s been a real rollercoaster of projects.
Having seen a very short demo of the technology at Diffblue I was instantly interested, and took a role as Senior Developer. They were in transition from prototype to production - and were frantically trying to secure funding. At the start I played a major role in shaping the demo into a product for real users which secured us our Series A of £17M, a real career highlight. We then went into rapid growth, with me taking on more management as a Team Lead and forming the integrations team - who effectively pulled everything into the shipped product. I was responsible for a lot of the team hiring - which was close to 50 developers - and managing my own team of 8. On any given day I could be writing Typescript for one of our service API’s, interviewing PhD students for C++ jobs, designing our distributed computing service on Kubernetes, or integrating our product into SCM, CI or any other service that makes sense. It was really scrappy, but an incredible experience with some super intelligent people trying to do something no-one else had achieved.
Following my successful management of the rewrite of MyMaths I was promoted to manage development across all of the Education Divisions web platforms. This included continued support and incremental improvement for the MyMaths web service - with internationalisation and global rollout of the platform - and bringing standardised development practices (SCM, TDD, CI) for two other major web applications. I continued the management of my previous team, whilst adding new support staff and extra developers (peaking at 7 full time staff). I also oversaw the rollout of agile project management methodologies through the supporting publishing and editorial teams - which my team had
pioneered within the company.
After showing that I was becoming a
really solid engineer I was made responsible for a newly aquired business - MyMaths. At the time it was the largest online educational maths platform in the UK, with close to 250k DAU during school term time. This role developed from integrating the service, hooking in back-office systems (SAP, CRM etc), recruiting, training and managing a new team of developers and project managers on to designing and implementing a complete rewrite of the system - which still runs today! It was also my first real management role where at it’s peak I managed a team of 4 full time programmers, as well a project manager and numerous contractors. MyMaths had around 5 million users, served over 9 million page views per week and was regularly in the top 500 Alexa charts(UK) whilst under my care - it was a great role.
My first real job! It was a really good start to my career, giving me the chance to play with a lot of different things and decide on where to hone my skills. One highlight of this role was designing and implementing a ‘digital book’ product that I exclusively developed in ActionScript 3. This software eventually went on to be used in over 60 products, as well as winning an IDA Award for a product that was produced for the Indian market.
I specialised in computer graphics, discrete mathematics and Turing machines. My dissertation project was inspired by my placement year with Oxford University Press, where I produced a virtual learning environment built in PHP and Flash.
During the pandemic everyone at VentureHarbour felt the strain of not seeing each other in person. This was especially acute in our lack of praise and appreciation of each other, so as part of some late night coding practice I put together
sparkle. We were working with Slack apps at the time so this became an application that sits in a Slack channel and encourages people to thank each other. It also has a web application where you can see stats on who has the most sparkles rewarded and awarded, as well as some aggregation on the words people typically use to describe you. It’s used constantly.
As our team at DiffBlue grew, and became co-located across Europe, our ability to run company wide retrospectives got harder. I put together
retrospectr as a hack-a-thon project which ended up getting continued updates and became it’s own thing. It provides live multiplayer retrospective boards, where people can push cards for suggestions, update other posts and generally get involved.
Heavily inspired by the Great British Bake Off I created an online ‘anonymous’ cake baking competition that pulled in around 250 participants. So far this has ran through two iterations and even managed to get Mary Berry herself to judge in the last final. Sadly the platform is no longer hosted, although photos are available on request.
As well as working with various government and private led schemes, CAS(Computing At School) and Cdi (Apps for Good), to try to encourage children to learn computer science I have produced my own resources and taught lessons. This is something I continue to be very passionate about and strive to contribute to.